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Pro Bono Service Pays Off for CHASS Grad

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If you’ve ever wondered how an unpaid service-learning experience could ever possibly pay off, meet Jake Gellar-Goad.

Recent CHASS graduate Gellar-Goad (MPA, 2011) was no stranger to volunteer work when he chose to take Professor Branda Nowell’s service-learning course on program evaluation. In addition to volunteering as a coordinator during Mark Kleinschmidt’s campaign in 2009, he also participated in unpaid service-learning experiences with United Way of the Greater Triangle and as an office intern for Chapel Hill’s Mayor Kleinschmidt in 2010.

So when taking Professor Nowell’s course the opportunity to work with the non-partisan organization Democracy North Carolina arose, Gellar-Goad, who considers himself an advocate for good government, grabbed it.

During this service-learning project Gellar-Goad collaborated with his classmates to evaluate Democracy North Carolina internally and figure out how to improve its efficiency. As Gellar-Goad and his peers worked to accomplish this goal, they not only gained an invaluable first-hand experience, but also enrichment.

“Any class with a service-learning component is useful,” said Gellar-Goad, who participated in four such projects over the course of his MPA studies. “It enriches you by bringing in experience, and also by the fact that you’re making something or producing something that’s meaningful in the real world.”

Gellar-Goad’s service-learning experience also stoked his passion for working to improve the political arena, particularly in his home state. When Democracy North Carolina posted a full-time opening, he applied.

Although Gellar-Goad already had a sense of the value of his contributions to the organization during this experience, he got full confirmation when during his interview the research he had contributed was used as a major point of discussion. They had taken his work seriously and used it to better the organization. Needless to say, he was hired.

“Hands-on classes in the MPA program—like Organization Change Management and Program
Evaluation—were critical to my education,” Gellar-Goad said. “They were also key to launching my career. NC State’s service-learning courses are some of the best.”

By Jennifer Jernigan, CHASS Communication Intern
Photo provided by Jake Gellar-Goad, pictured above on graduation day with his colleagues from the Democracy NC Program Evaluation Project, Caroline Bixiones and Jodi Swicegood.